7 Thoughts to the Families of Introverts

Whenever I post about the subject of introversion I hear from fellow introverts. Some of these are apparently even more introverted than me. And, that’s a lot of introversion.

I usually am addressing introversion in leadership, but in talking with a young pastor after one of these posts I discovered there was another issue we needed to address. This particular pastor was having some issues at home with introversion. He had managed to be extroverted for his church, but when he got home, he had nothing left to give. He felt the tension. He wanted to push through it, but he didn’t know how. He didn’t want to talk about his day. He didn’t want to share what he was thinking. He was done. Words spent. Empty.

His wife was growing increasingly impatient with a lack of intimacy in communication, limited social life, and simply feeling left out of part of his life.

Of course, I only heard his side of the story. He knows what he needs to do, but he doesn’t know how to do it.

Her side of the story (according to him) – she doesn’t understand how he can be so introverted – even when it’s with his family.

I get it. I really do.

So, this post is to the families of introverts. There are a few things I’d love to say to you. I hope they are helpful.

Here are 7 words to families of introverts:

We aren’t crazy.

Sometimes you think we are, don’t you? Be honest. When we don’t talk for long periods of time – even when we are with people – you assume we must have a few screws loose somewhere. We probably do – as you possibly do – we are all desperately in need of grace. But introversion isn’t one of the things which make us crazy. We aren’t weird – okay, again, some of us might be, but not just because of introversion. In fact, you may not know this, but there are lots of introverts around. Lots. Mega lots. You may even have overlooked some of us because we aren’t always trying to get your attention. We may appear extroverted in public, often because it’s our job, but there are lots of us who are really introverted.

It isn’t personal. 

When we don’t not talk because we don’t want to communicate with someone. We don’t talk because we are introverted. We need to have something to say. We probably think a lot more than we say. It’s hard not to take it personal though, isn’t it? But, it most likely has little to do with you when we don’t talk to you as much as you wish we would.

We do love you.

This one is huge. The crazy thing about introverts – that I know some have a hard time believing – is that most of us really do love people. A lot. More than you can imagine. In fact, the measure of extroversion or introversion, from what I can tell, has no bearing on the degree of love a person has for others. That’s a whole other side to a person’s personality and character. If one expectation you have of love is talking a lot, you’re going to be disappointed at times. But, this may help to know – for some introverts, one expectation we have of love is giving the people we love time to not have to talk. (Figuring out how to balance those expectations is tough, isn’t it?)

We need time to recharge.

The amount of time is relative to the amount of extroversion we had to do to get to the opportunity for introversion and the degree of introversion we have. But, all of us need that time. We may even crave it. This is especially true after very extroverted events or settings. For my pastor friend I mentioned above, that’s Sunday afternoon following a Sunday morning. (Funny how Sunday afternoons always follow Sunday mornings.)

Preparation helps.

If you give us advance warning, we can often better prepare for conversation. We can gear up for it. I know that may be difficult to grasp for especially extroverted people, especially when it involves people we love so much. Please understand, though, that introversion impacts how we relate to others – not how we feel about them. I love my wife. More than anything. And, she shares my calendars so, thankfully, she knows the times I am more likely to revert to my introversion preferences. I find, however, that my wife and I having a routine time where we interact together at night, is the time I’m ready to dialogue with her best about my day and hers. And, she loves this time. I do too. Seriously. It works better for me because I’m prepared for it – actually looking forward to it – and it works better for her because I actually talk. And, want to.

We don’t have a right to ignore you.

Do I need to repeat that one? I will. We don’t have a right to ignore you. And, my introverted friends can get frustrated with me if they want to, but we don’t. You can expect communication. Relationships are built on communication. We just have to figure out how to make it work with your personality and ours. We can do that, can’t we? And, you can tell them I said it. Get an outside party (such as a counselor) to help you if you need it. We can’t expect people to ignore their personality – and we should work to respect other people’s personalities, but we can expect two people in a healthy relationship to find a balance that allows healthy, intimate conversation – at a level that meets the needs of both in the relationship.

Activity often produces conversation.

This may sound strange unless you’ve experienced it, but as an introvert, I talk more — and am more comfortable doing so — when I am being physically active at the same time. Walking with Cheryl helps us communicate better. Our communication is strengthened when we have an activity we do together regularly. So, we walk often. Almost daily. It’s good for our health and our marriage. Certainly we walk enough so she feels we’ve communicated. What’s an activity you could do with your introverted family member which might produce more (and better) conversation? (Play a board game, go hiking, take a drive, etc.)

Here’s the disclaimer. Not all introverts are alike. Just as not all extraverts are alike. And, there are varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. It’s important not to put people into boxes – and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. Maybe the best follow up to this post is a conversation with your introvert on how the two of you could communicate better. More than anything, as a relationship counselor and pastor, I want to help people better communicate. Sadly, I’ve sat on the outside of dozens of relationships in trouble and communication is almost always one root of the problems in the relationship. This post isn’t counseling – and my intent was a very soft approach, but the issue here is huge for some couples. Don’t be afraid to get help if needed.

Are you an extrovert married to an introvert? Any tips you’ve learned that can help?

20 Things Good Dads Do In Parenting

Twenty things good dads do…

They challenge. When the challenge comes from dad we listen seriously. We know its being said with a loving concern.

They inspire. Great dads want better for their children than they achieved, so they are always pushing us beyond what we think we can do. (Sometimes they push too hard, but this, too, is an error of love.)

They build. Maybe it’s the midnight toy-factory production, the night before scinence projects or the ongoing project which provides for bonding and teaching times. (And, occasionally a lesson or two in refining patience.) But, more than anything, great dads build elements of character which last a lifetime. 

They provide. As best they can, good dads want their children to have what they need to be happy and successful in this world. And, there is a constant tension for good dads between working hard to provide and being there for the ones for whom they are providing.

They encourage. Good dads stand on the sidelines ready to cheer you to victory. Just when you think you can’t go on anymore, you’ll hear a voice from dad, “You’ve got this!” If whispered in sincerity and love that is a whisper which can last a lifetime 

They discipline. A good father is not afraid to do what is hard to achieve what is best. No discipline is easy, but when lovingly given, with purpose and intentionality, it makes all of us better.

They listen. The ears of a dad are attentive to the questions, concerns and actions of his children – also knowing what isn’t being said may be just as important as what’s said.

They counsel. Wisdom comes with time and experience. Dads sometime grow up fast when the reality of their little one comes into the world – and, then the child begins to grow up into their own person. Dads don’t always know what to say, but often what they say will only be realized as true years after they said it.

They validate. There is something powerful about the words of affirmation from a dad. When you know you have his confidence you can more assuredly face whatever the world brings.

They play. They wrestle. They tease. They dress up and have tea parties. They laugh. They make up funny songs and – just when nothing seems exciting about the day – they entertain. (And, no one else would think it’s entertaining, but we do. Just don’t do it when our friends our here, dad.)

They model. A good dad walks his talk and leaves an easy-to-follow trail. And, children are watching closely.

They pray. Knowing they don’t have all the answers, a good dad carries his concern’s and the concerns of his family, to the One who has all the answers. A dad on his knees is a dad with confidence and assurance – from his Dad. 

They teach. Good dads find those nuggets of life where time presents itself a teachable moment. They instill godly principles and values into their children by what they intentionally say and do. They are grounded in truth. 

They strengthen. When a child is wondering if they are strong enough – or if they have what it takes – enter in a good dad to let the child borrow from his strength.

They endure. Through the good seasons and the bad, good dads stand the test of time. When knocked down they get up, dust off, and try again. They don’t make excuses. They move forward for the good of others (and themselves.)

They forgive. This is hard for many men, and it may take them time to process, but good dads work to be at peace with their children. They extend grace. They finish well, attempting to right the wrongs done in the past whenever possible.

They believe. Good dads believe in the best of situations. The world can’t discourage them for long. Their faith helps them overcome evil with good.

They lead. Good dads are helping their children get somewhere in life. They help them navigate through the days of uncertainty and fear. (That’s what leaders do – and good dads are leaders.)

They protect. Whether from the things which (appear to) make noises at night or the evils of this world invading the family, good dads stand strong against whatever threatens the family.

They love. Because love really is the greater gift. And, good dads love well. Love never ends.

Dads!

I had these words for several years in a post with no explanation what I was thinking with each one. As I’ve added a statement around the 20 words, I realized I’ve created quite a challenging list for us dads.

Here’s the thing – there are no perfect ones – except our Heavenly Dad – but good dads try. Every good dad I know wants to do the best he can. Don’t let this list beat you up. Let it inspire you. That’s what good dads do. You model your reactions by the way you respond to life’s challenges. 

And, some good dads have left us already – at least from this earth – and still, they do what they do through the memories and legacies they left behind.

Give a shoutout to a good dad today! Thank you God, for good dads.

If you’re reading this and none of these line up with your experience with a dad, please know I understand. I deeply understand. It was hard for me to write these and know I missed many of them with an absentee dad most of my growing years. Yet, now that he is gone, and I’m forgiven him, I can honestly say I miss him. And, see looking back how many of these may have been goals of his – many times he simply didn’t know how. 

And, even more, I also know my Heavenly Dad fulfills all these and more for me. Plus, thankfully, through my own intentionality, there have been other men who have done some of these in the role of a dad to me. Praise God for those men. 

Mother: What a Great Word!

Demonstrating love in so many ways.

Mother

Is there a sweeter word in the English language?

Maybe your word is:

Mom

Maybe your word is:

Momma

Or, many of the tousands of words in any other language which comes with the same deep meaning and emotion.

Unconditional love.

Sacrificial giving.

Forgiving easily.

Striving to provide perfect environments for others.

Incredible patience.

Strength beyond measure.

Always believing the best from and for her children.

A model and teacher of compassion.

Skilled for laughing at kid jokes – even those which aren’t even funny.

Accepting of others.

Stability during chaos.

A tender touch and a firm hug that never lets go – even when no longer physically together.

Mother

I’m always reminded of the mother’s heart who doesn’t have children of her own, but who displays the applied meaning of the word every single day.

Thank God for the mothers of the world.

What do you think of when you hear the word mother?

What To Do When You Don’t Have Words to Say

Helping People Grieve...

I have done a few too many funerals for children when the parents are still living. Every funeral is difficult, but these are some of the hardest.

One teenager comes to mind. I went to school with his mother and his father is a dear, personal friend. He was supposed to start college the following week, but tragically died in a car accident. He was a well-loved, funny, popular boy and the funeral home was packed with people paying their respects. As you can imagine, there were hundreds of students wrestling to understand why this happened to their friend. The receiving line for the family lasted for numerous hours over a couple of days.

I remember a number of people asking me the same question as they proceeded through the line: “What should I say to the family?”

What can you say to grieving parents, family members and friends at a time like this?

In times like these, there usually are no words, which can fully bring comfort to devastated people in the initial shock of their loss. They are hurting. They are hurting with a pain whose depths most of us can never imagine.

When there aren’t words to say – say nothing if there’s nothing to say – just be there.

Of course, you’ll speak. So, tell them you’re sorry, but don’t try to make explanations. Don’t try to give them a why. Don’t try to have fancy words of wisdom.

Give them a hug – and hold them until they let go.

Cry with them – and assure them you care.

Pray for them – and do this continually after you leave their presence.

When there aren’t words to say – just be a friend.

I’m reminded of the great sufferer Job. When he had lost literally everything he had – his wealth, his family, his health – and the respect of his wife – his friends came. And, they sat with him for seven days and said nothing. 

Sometimes your presence is the greater gift in times where there are no words.

In fact, when someone you love is hurting, the presence of a friend in those initial days of grief may be more valuable than the words of a counselor, or pastor, or any other professional.

Words will come in days to come – and, then you may need the professionals to help you say the right things, but initially, just be present.

When was the last time you were in a situation where there was simply nothing to say? 

7 Things Which Have Brought Me Personal Success

Advice to young leaders

I get asked frequently by young leader what I would you attribute most to my success in business, ministry or life.

Great question. I love people who think. It takes intentionality to achieve much of the success we do in life.

My first thought when I am asked, however, is usually “What success?”.

When I look back at my life, in many ways, I see a life scarred with personal failures and setbacks. But, over the years I have learned God has blessed me greatly – much in spite and much because of my personal failures.

Let me be clear about something, one of my missions in life is to help younger leaders succeed, so this is my sole motivation for answering this question. I am still very much a work in progress, but as I reflect on where I am midway in my life and career (and approaching a little beyond midway), I can clearly point to some things which have helped me succeed personally.

Here are 7 things which have brought me personal success:

God’s grace

I can’t deny it. It’s really all grace. I do not deserve the favor I have found. His grace has been amazing in my life. And, the more I have pursued Him, allowed Him to have His will in my life, and credited all to His glory the more grace He seems to extend. He’s a generous God.

Other people

I have had so many people invest in me. Don’t misunderstand. I’ve been intentional with networking and wisdom-seeking – always having mentors in my life whom I recruited, but I’ve had great people in my corner to help me along the way. Nothing of value is done without the help of others. And, if your goal is to be a leader – there is no leadership without people.

A little luck

Honestly, I don’t believe much in luck. It IS all grace. I think God is always at work around us, and He certainly has been in my life, but sometimes we find ourselves in “the right place at the right time”. Learning how to capitalize on those times has been key for me. Seize the day and seize the moments. Every moment and every connection you make is an opportunity – and sometimes a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Purpose

I have usually known what I ultimately want to accomplish. I believe you hit more targets when you have them in site. Sometimes this has been a few months down the road or a few years down the road, but I’ve most always tried to keep some direction in front of me – as much as God will allow me to see at the time. And, you may even get it wrong, but you’ll learn from this too and find a better purpose.

Intentionality

Probably if there were one word to describe how I want to live my life it would be this one. Since I was in high school, I have intentionally pursued opportunities to accomplish where I felt God was leading me. But, I’ve been intentional in every area of my life, not just in my vocation. I think it is critical to living a balanced life (as much as we can achieve balance) and for attaining personal success.

Tenacity

I have weathered a few storms – actually, many storms. My list of failures, setbacks and disappointments is long – some I caused and some which were beyond my control. Every time, again, by God’s grace, I have gotten back up, refocused, learned valuable life principles and moved forward. The longer you dwell on the past and missed opportunities the longer you delay future success.

Commitment to help others

I believe this is huge. I genuinely love helping other people succeed. It’s been a pulling force in my life to do much of what I do. The purpose of this blog, for example, is for this reason. (I seldom look at my analytics. It doesn’t matter except in the sense I’m trying to be purposeful and intentional.) And, here’s the thing – my personal investment in others has always returned to me tenfold.

So, there’s my attempt at an answer to how I have attained any success I have.

What has gotten you where you are today?

5 Reasons Your Dream Life Never Came True

Many of us start out with better dreams than we are currently living.

The fact is I talk to a lot of frustrated people in my work. I meet people frequently who are always chasing after something – trying to realize their dream – yet they never seem to catch what they are chasing.

Many times – and we are all prone to doing this occasionally – we make excuses better than we make progress.

I think there may be simple reasons some people never realize their dreams.

Here are 5 of the real reasons many dreams never come true:

People quit trying.

They gave up. They may have tried before and it didn’t work, so now they don’t try at all. Seldom is a dream – a worthy, God-given dream – realized on the first attempt or without a lot of effort. The greatest discoveries are seldom found along the path of least resistance. Dreams are realized with prayer, persistence and perseverance. The best dreams are usually achieved just past the point where average effort stops.

People aren’t willing to work hard enough.

I think sometimes we expect dreams “just to happen”, because we had the dream. But, dreams don’t happen by chance. Being lucky isn’t usually a required skill in achieving dreams. You might occasionally be “in the right place at the right time”, but those opportunities are rare. If you have a dream it will be difficult to achieve. Should I say it again? It will be difficult. There will likely be lots of long days, sleepless nights and sweat equity. Otherwise it’s not much of a dream.

People put too much hope in others and not enough confidence in themselves.

Others don’t put as much energy or thought into your dream as you do. Many people never realize a dream because they expected something from others they never agreed to do. If you want your dream to come true you will have to go for it even when others aren’t as supportive as you would like them to be.

I should not here – this doesn’t mean we discount the voices of others completely. For example, I don’t believe God calls a married couple to competing dreams. He may lay a dream on one heart before he does the other – and one person may be more adventurous than the other – but, in the end God will bring the two together on the same dream if it is His will for the couple. Sometimes we need others to help us discern what God is calling us to do and what he is not.

People have unrealistic dreams.

This may be where other people help us discern our dreams. Some dreams simply aren’t realistic. If the dream is for a trouble-free, perfect life – that’s probably not going to become a reality. Winning the lottery as a retirement plan – statistically speaking – may not be a realistic dream. Expecting your family to always be “drama free” – well, best wishes on that dream. Learning to navigate an excellent dream in the midst of a world full of sorrow is a key to discovering the greatest and most achievable dreams in life.

People devalue the dreams already realized.

This is a biggie. What if you are already “living the dream”? Right now you may not have all you want, but considering the fallen world around us many of us have pretty good lives comparatively. Sometimes contentment is our problem more than not achieving the next great dream. If we always live thinking the “grass is greener” with the “next big thing” we never fully appreciate the dreams God has already given us. In fact, I believe God may often wait to give us what’s next until we learn how to be satisfied (in Him) where He currently has allowed us to be.

I am a proponent of dreaming! I think it can be healthy for us personally and even for couples. I am more of a dreamer than my wife, but dreaming together has been a part of keeping our marriage strong over the years. We’ve loved dreaming ahead, watching, waiting, and working for what is next. Here’s to better dreaming in your world!

10 Things I’d Do If I Were Raising a Son Today

I revised and reposted 10 Things I’d Do If Raising a Daughter Today recently. In this post, I will focus on raising a son.

I know a little more about this subject, having two incredible sons of my own. But, we always look at life differently from the other side of it. My boys are grown. I’m still parenting, but in a completely different way. My parenting these days is one of influence. Thankfully, both boys still come to me desiring my input into their life. There is no greater joy than seeing boys become God-honoring young men. I’m thankful to have a front row seat with my sons.

But, even knowing the incredible young men I have as sons, there are things I would do differently if I had that part of life to do over again.

I know boys become men. And, every man I know, whether or not he admits it, struggles at some level with confidence. He struggles to know he is enough, that he can do what God calls him to do. Every man is desperate for someone to believe in him.

And, sadly, we are living in the age where the absentee father is normal. It once was the exception. (That’s the subject of another post, but it’s plaguing our society. Check any statistics.)

I was mindful of these truths when my boys were young, but I’m older now. The seasons of my life have taught me so much more.

So, I would be even more intentional today – if I were raising sons.

Here are 10 things I’d do if raising a son today:

I would introduce him to Jesus from the day he was born. Every little boy likes to role play and act out their heroes – even if only in their minds, and I would engage him in the stories of the Bible. We would learn truth, faith and courage as we role played scenes of valiant warriors for God, such as David, Gideon and Daniel. (Acting out Jonah might be kind of fun too.)

I would show him I believe in him, by learning to enjoy, value and support the activities and dreams important to him – including loving his friends. I’d tell him daily I’m proud of who he is and the individual God created him to be.

I would make myself available to him when he needed me. Not only when it was convenient or didn’t interfere with my work or my hobbies, and assure him I would never leave him or reject him. I would want him to know I would be there for him all of his life – through good days and bad.

I would strive to personally live a respectable and God-honoring life, so he could model after me, and likewise be respectable – knowing respect will be his greatest need in life.

I would model for him how to love a woman, by valuing and treating my wife as a treasured gift from God. He would never hear me degrade anyone, but instead hear me valuing others. He would see me living a life of a servant – attempting to make a positive impact on the world around us.

I would help him build confidence by giving him ample opportunities to explore, to dream, to be adventuresome, to risk it all, even allowing him to fail under my watch, so I could encourage him to start again, explaining to him the only way to be a failure is to not get back up from a fall.

I would help him develop confidence, strength and courage through his walk with Christ, gaining the awesome reality the only limits on him would be the ones he set for himself.

I would let him know the boundaries of the house, being certain he would test them, so he could learn even in freedom there are consequences for misbehaving and sin. And, I would model for him the value of a sincere apology – learning how to give and grant forgiveness.

I would teach and model for him character and integrity – that the real value of a man is not in the sum total or his possessions, but in the sum total of knowing God intimately and when those who know him best honor him most.

I would build deep faith in him, at times, letting him see me afraid, even seeing me cry, to show him a man can be courageous and still be vulnerable. Then I would let him see me following even closer after God for direction and strength to continue the journey – even when afraid or the answers are unknown.

That’s if I were raising a son today.

Are you raising a son? Tell me about him.

Final note on these two posts, one for raising daughters and this for raising sons. They are somewhat interchangeable. Some of each list could apply to raising boys or girls. They are aspirations. There are no perfect parents.

I have observed, however, there are parents more intentional than others. There are parents who parent with the sober reality we have precious little time to mold children who will be adults longer than they are children. Parents who know it takes time, energy, consistency and intentionality to parent well. Mostly knowing it takes the grace of God to be a great parent.

10 Things I’d Do If I Were Raising a Daughter Today

I wrote this post a few years ago, but it came to my attention again after someone shared it, so I decided to revise and repost it. 

I never had a daughter. I have a great daughter-in-law, and she has a special relationship with her dad, but I never got to raise a girl. We are hoping some day for a granddaughter – should the Lord provide. 

I watch from the sidelines some of my friends who have daughters and know I missed something special without a “daddy’s girl”. (I guess that’s why we’ve chosen to have female puppy dogs.) 

Don’t misunderstand me, I wouldn’t trade my boys. I’m thankful for them and our relationship, but there is something unique about the relationship between a father and a daughter. 

One thing I have observed, even in my own life, is what an important role a dad plays in a child’s life. And, again, watching others, it seems to me if the right foundation is set, the role of a dad can help a girl have confidence, feel loved and beautiful, and achieve great things. The right foundation can help a girl avoid, or at least recover, from many of the scars life naturally will bring. Even when a girl becomes a woman. And, the dad plays a huge role in establishing this foundation – either by what he does or doesn’t do, whether fully present or completely absent. 

All women (all people) have scars of some kind. Sadly, I know a few girls – most of them now grown – who have scars caused by a dad. And, the scars caused by a dad may be among the worst.

As I’ve counseled dozens of hurt or angry girls over the years, I’ve often wondered what I would have done if I had raised a girl. Would would I do now if I were raising a girl?

Certainly the world can be a crazy place. Our children need us – perhaps now more than ever. If I were raising a daughter I would want to be wise and intentional. Maybe one dad out there will read this, consider his own role as a father, and be even more intentional in this important responsibility. 

(In my next post I will share some thoughts about raising a son.)  

Here are 10 things I’d do if I were raising a daughter today:

I would introduce her to Jesus, let her hear me pray for her daily and strive to live a godly life, after which she could model – and trust me to be consistent, although helping her discover I am not perfect, and the only real place to find fulfillment in this world is in a relationship with Christ.

I would let her see my wife is the most important woman in the world to me and encourage her to wait for a man willing to say – and live – the same.

I would dance with her, take her on regular dates, and hold her hand frequently, telling her daily how beautiful she is and that I love her unconditionally.

I would let her know, in word and actions, she is more important than my job, my hobbies, my favorite sports team and my iPhone. (And, actions do speaker louder than words.) 

I would encourage her to take risks, to defy the odds, to dream bigger dreams which may seem impossible and then help her have the confidence to go for them with everything she has in her – consistently reminding her she has what it takes to do anything she sets her mind to do and to settle for nothing less than her best.

I would hold the standard high for her, but instill in her the belief I’m here for her, regardless of what she does wrong, and nothing she could ever do would cause me to turn my back on her.

I would get her self-defense training – and teach her where to kick, but most of all to know how to face all her fears with courage and conviction. 

I would encourage her talents and abilities, to discover things about herself she didn’t know she could do, and instill a belief in her that God has great plans for her and will use her in incredible ways.

I would help her understand every boy’s intentions are not honorable, the world is not always kind, but she is worthy of and should always demand respect. 

I would teach her the world does not revolve around her, but around God, and show her how to love others even more than she loves herself. I would challenge her to be a giver in this world – making a difference and leaving her legacy on it by how she lives her life every day. 

That’s if I were raising a daughter.

Are you raising a daughter? Tell me about her.

7 Suggestions for a Leader to have a Better Weekend

Hint: It takes intentionality

If you are like me you love your weekends. T.G.I.F., right? In fairness, my weekends are shorter than some. My busiest day is usually Sunday. But, I love the weekend I have.

In my experience, however, if we are not careful the weekend passes so quickly we begin another work week feeling we wasted the weekend we had. Or we are so stressed by the week behind or the week ahead that all we do is catch our breath and we can’t fully enjoy the weekend.

This is true for everyone, but from my perspective as a leader this is especially a problem. For most leaders, we never feel our work is done. What we are leading – and even more who we are leaving – always weighs heavily on our mind. This makes enjoying our weekend even more important, though – so we can be prepared for the week ahead. We need quality down time to experience the best quality “up” time.

So, how can we help guarantee better weekends? Every weekend – or at least most. I have learned the more intentional Cheryl and I are about planning for it, the better weekends we had as a family when our boys are home and now as empty-nesters.

Here are 7 suggestions for leader:

Plan well on Monday

Set your week up for success. Plan what you can realistically do in a week and end the week with a sense of accomplishment. I use checklists every day and every week. I try to end my Friday being as “done” as possible.

Do hard things now

Handle the hard stuff as they arise. Try not to carry it into the weekend. Obviously this is not always possible, but many times it is. For example, don’t put off a difficult conversation you know you have to have until Monday if you can and should do it today. It will haunt you all weekend. Whatever the issue, bite the bullet and handle the tough issue, as soon as effectively possible.

Be honest with others and your schedule

Don’t feel bad about declining activities on the weekend. If you want to go somewhere then go, but if you’d rather relax – don’t feel guilty saying so. The quality of and your ability to say no always determines the quality of your life and ultimately your leadership. Say yes sparingly when accepting weekend appointments. Invitations sometimes sound good on Monday, but are less exciting on Saturday morning.

Attend church

This is an appointment I think you should keep. Obviously this one doesn’t apply to my pastor friends (except when you’re on vacation and then I do think it applies – I wrote about that in another post), and I know it seems self-serving to suggest it. You should know I’m certainly not being legalistic. This is not my nature or theology. It’s just that I’ve hardly ever heard someone say they wish they’d skipped church. But I’ve heard many who believe it gave them a better weekend. We tend to think the opposite, especially on a busy weekend, but God always seems to bless the time we give Him.

Do things during the week so you can have a true Sabbath

Even though it makes for slightly longer weekdays, try to accomplish many of the “chores” you have to do before the weekend. Try to have some unplanned time simply to do what you enjoy. Sometimes I have no choice. Some projects require my Saturday, but if possible, I’m going to worker longer weekdays to enjoy a lighter Saturday.

Keep a fairly normal sleep schedule all week

If you always have to “catch up” on your sleep on the weekends, or you spend your week tired because of the late nights on the weekend, you never gain a healthy rhythm for life. Be reasonably consistent in your bedtime and waking up time and you’ll feel better and enjoy a more productive awake time.

Share time with people you love

And, doing the things you love. The best memories center around time with people we love and things we enjoy doing. We certainly have to balance the two. When the family is running in many different directions you end the weekend feeling like you “missed” the weekend. This means you may have to limit activities you or your family commits to or do things your family can do together. This takes prior thought and coordination, but makes for a more enjoyable weekend.

Pastors, this list includes you, too. I originally wrote it for you and decided to expand it to a more general audience. Your weekend may look different, as it may for other leaders, but you need to protect it. I wrote THIS POST on how I protect my Sabbath.

What tips do you have for a better weekend?

Five Personal Reflection Questions to Evaluate Your Year and Start the New Year Right

I’m a reflective person. This time of year, when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

I think its a great exercise.

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so – get alone – and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating – sin can have an immediate pleasure – but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships – spend more time with family and friends. Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But, chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended – and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again – even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed). I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year – one decision – one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But, would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Maybe you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life – and start living the life God has called you to. Maybe you need to stop delaying the risk – and go for it! Maybe you need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream? Is this the year you mend the broken relationship? Is the year you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being – planning for the future? Is this the year you surrender your will to God’s will – and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Maybe getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life – spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself. This can be a powerful exercise.

Try answering some of these questions and see how they help you start your best year ever!